By Rohit Vaid
Low cost carrier AirAsia India will focus on expanding its domestic network and increase its flight frequencies, before commencing international operations to Southeast Asia by early next year, the airline's chief, Amar Abrol, said.
Just a few days ago, the budget passenger carrier announced the addition of Nagpur and Indore to its network, effective March 17. It will also introduce new routes connecting Bengaluru, Kolkata, Goa, Indore and Nagpur.
In addition, the airline will operate daily flights connecting its two hubs -- Bengaluru and Kolkata -- which will become operational from March 25.
"We are not shying away from India. We will first commence flight operations to new domestic destinations and increase frequencies. In all we are looking at starting flights to four to five new cities in this year," Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer Abrol told IANS in an interview.
"We are making the preparations for international operations but it will most probably take place by the first quarter of 2019," he added.
Currently, the airline operates to Bengaluru, Kochi, Goa, Jaipur, Chandigarh, Pune, New Delhi, Guwahati, Imphal, Visakhapatnam, Hyderabad, Srinagar, Bagdogra, Ranchi, Kolkata, Chennai and Bhubaneshwar with a fleet of 16 A320 aircrafts.
When asked about the first international port of call, Abrol said: "It can be anywhere from India's eastern seaboard to Southeast Asia, particularly to Thailand and Malaysia."
According to Abrol, apart from adding more domestic flight frequencies, the airline is "steadily working" towards "break-even" by the year-end.
On the perils of high crude oil prices denting the airline's ability to offer lower fares, Abrol said AirAsia India will continue to offer "lowest possible fares" to its customers.
"We don't control oil prices. But we do control other aspects; we are good at one thing and that is to provide affordable flying. AirAsia India will continue to offer the lowest possible airfares," Abrol said.
The airline, like many of its peers, has been known to offer promotional airfare schemes. It recently started the "Big Sale" promotion with all-in one-way fares starting at Rs 799 for domestic travel.
AirAsia India is a joint venture between Tata Sons and Malaysia-based AirAsia, with a small stake held by two individuals. It commenced operations on June 12, 2014.
(Rohit Vaid can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)